In this story of hilarity and horror, Walter Wangerin, Jr., creates a delightfully varied, though temperamental, menagerie that exists more or less peacefully under the wings of the great Chauntecleer, its irritable but responsible leader. The hilarity flows out of the colorful personality clashes, wit, and foibles of these furry creatures and fowl. Hilarity gives way to horror when Wyrm, condemned to live deep below the earth’s surface, becomes bent on destroying all that is good by unleashing his forces of madness and mayhem.
The pending threat to Chauntecleer’s community, and thereby the earth’s civilization, develops gradually but insistently. Underneath the Chicken Coop lurks Ebenezer Rat, who sneaks up in the night and sucks the hens’ eggs. On a more cosmic scale, although he is buried in the bowels of the earth by God’s decree, Wyrm still has power to affect affairs on the surface. The result is the birth of Cockatrice. This wholly evil offspring, hatched by a toad and in a form that is half rooster and half dragon, kills his own father and, in the service of Wyrm, sets out to launch a deadly attack on the peaceable kingdom of Chauntecleer.
In that kingdom, Chauntecleer has succeeded in neutralizing Ebenezer Rat, the presence of evil inside the Coop, but the Lord of the Coop discovers the consequence of another evil beyond the Coop in the churning of the swollen river: All manner of debris, a “spinning cemetery of bones.”...
(The entire section is 559 words.)